(I Kings 19:13) Escaping the Cave of Isolation and Depression

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1Kings 19:13 And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?

1Kings 19:14 And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.

Every Christian no matter how strong or faithful will end up having bad days from time to time, and missionaries or pastors are obviously no exception.  In fact, I would say those on the front lines of ministry experience more of these since Satan wants them to give up, and walk away from God’s calling.

Sadly this mean that discouragement, and even depression are a part of ministry (editors note:  I am referring here not to “clinical depression” but intense emotional responses to frustrating or depressing situations such as loneliness, apathy, anger, or isolation from others).

Since God in His sovereignty has created me as an incredibly emotional person I’m used to experiencing this kind of depression on days when things don’t go well (have at least two “bad days” a month).  And believe it or not that’s good news, because my response to those kinds of situations has changed drastically.

Normally the blah’s (what I call my depression) comes from a few different sources

  1. There wasn’t a lot of face to face ministry (evangelism, discipleship)
  2. The children raised lots of discipline problems
  3. Or the heat got to me (I’ve learned that lots of walking in the early afternoon will do a number on my body, and open the door for blah’s)

Over time I could feel the blah’s coming and would respond

  1. With comfort food (extra crispy french fries)
  2. Netflix
  3. Nap in an air-conditioned room
  4. Or listening to music

now there’s nothing really wrong with these things, but they focus on isolation (drawing more into myself) instead of drawing closer to God.

Elijah chapters eighteen and nineteen are one of the greatest contrasts in all of one Scripture.  One chapter sees Elijah courageously standing up to 400 prophets of Baal, the other sees him asking God for death (19:4) because there was nobody else who followed God (19:14).  Elijah eventually traveled to Horeb  (19:9) and God met him there.  He probably thought that the Lord would give an encouraging word since Jezebel had promised to kill him (19:1-2) but instead God asks a question.

What are you doing here Elijah?

God actually asks the same question twice (19:9, 19:13) and Elijah in response says “you aren’t being fair to me!” (paraphrase of 19:10, 19:14).  Evidently he felt that after the victory over Baals priests everything would work out, and was upset this didn’t happen.

That question “what are you doing here?” stuck in my head as I read it in devotions this morning.  Probably because I could hear God asking me the same question when my blah’s lead me to laziness or apathy instead of His presence.

Why are you here John?

  • Why are you watching that rerun of “Everybody loves Raymond” instead of reading my Word?
  • Why are you laying in bed instead of spending time in prayer?
  • Why are you filling yourself with comfort food instead of sharing the burden of your heart with trusted friends?
  • Why are you hiding in the cave of isolation instead of seeking me?

Now let me be clear there’s definitely a place in life for air-conditioned naps, netflix, and comfort food (some days you need all three), and of course there is always a need for rest in our schedule.  yet our emotional responses to life are tools of God to remind us of our brokenness, and our need of Him.  In a way even the blah’s are a picture of the Gospel as I confess (again) no amount of work or human strength can bring me happiness.  

This afternoon during lunch I got emotional while watching a Garfield cartoon (don’t judge) as the blah’s caught up with me (combination of really hot days, and lack of ministry opportunities).  I made sure to take a nap in the air-conditioning after lunch, but not till after holding my hands out in prayer to the one who uses my moments of depression for His glory.

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